Mealybugs are a common pest that can be found on many types of plants, including indoor and outdoor plants. They can also be found in greenhouses or other similar environments where mealybug colonies have been established. There are multiple mealybug species which vary in size and coloration from white to pink, brown or black. Mealybugs feed on plant juices by inserting their long mouthparts into the plant's tissue and sucking out the sap. The mealybugs excrete sticky honeydew as they feed which often accumulates below infested leaves or stems creating an ideal environment for sooty mold growth.
Mealybug infestations are normally identified by the presence of mealybugs on plant tissue or mealybug excrement, typically in clusters. The mealy bug's body consists of a head and abdomen covered with white powder known as "waxy filaments". They are generally soft and oval shaped, measuring a few millimeters in length.
Note: There are at least 275 species of mealybugs in the US.
Life Cycle of a MealyBug
The females deposit 300-600 eggs within a waxy cottony excreted egg mass and die shortly after laying which takes around 2 weeks. Hatching starts within 1-3 weeks and mealybug nymphs continue developing through six stages (instars) and become adults in 12 to 16 weeks.
Mealybugs are considered a pest because they can damage plants by piercing plant tissue and sucking sap out, which then weakens the plant's ability to transport water or nutrients. Some mealy bugs also secrete honeydew from their anus that becomes covered with sooty mold fungi which prevents photosynthesis of essential sugars for the plant while providing more food for mealybugs. This wax coating covers leaves making them white, mealy looking and "waxy".
How to Get Rid of Mealy Bugs
- In order to remove these pests, trim out the infected plants where not too much is affected. For infestations that are more severe, dab insects with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.Do not over water or overfertilize — mealybugs are attracted to plants with high nitrogen levels and soft growth.
- Commercially available beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings, can prey on mealy bugs.
- The Mealybug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) is also a natural predator of these pests
- It is possible to control mealybug infestation with the help of a strong stream water, neem oil, and other tactics.
- The Safer® Insecticidal Soap will kill most light infestations in one application. Safe for use in vegetable and fruit gardens, it damages the outer layer of soft-bodied insect pests, causing dehydration and death within hours when they come into contact with the solution. Apply 2.5 oz/ gallon to your garden's surface as necessary, at a rate of 2-3x a month depending on severity of pest infestation.Neem oil
- BotaniGard ES, a biological insecticide containing Beauveria bassiana, an entomopathogenic fungus that attacks a long list of pesky crop pests and resistant strains with equal effectiveness to conventional chemically-based pesticides.
- Fast-acting organic insecticides should be used as a last resort. Derived from plants which have insecticidal properties, these natural pesticides are safer and break down quicker than synthetic chemicals.
- To prevent future infestations of mealybugs, wash the leaves on a regular basis.
Making use of all the tips above we hope that you'll be on your way to reducing your mealybug problem in no time.